We Need You! (April 23, 2008)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Next month, members of the CIC staff will be assisting in a project to restore and archive a large amount of historical data from Origin Systems, which surely includes some fascinating lost Wing Commander elements... and we need your help! Are there any data recovery experts out there who might be willing to provide their expertise for this project? Take a look at these three types of backup media -- do you know how to read them? If so, please let us know!


--
Original update published on April 23, 2008
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Royal_Marine

Commodore
The first one, Syquest HD cartridge requires a syquest drive to read it, you just slot the cartridge in like a floppy disk drive. I actually have one in a box of bits, but it's in England, so probably not much good to you, surely can't be that hard to find them they're not that old,95/96 I think.
 

Taser8

Captain
The middle one is an Exabyte digital tape. I actually have one of these laying around somewhere with some of my Wing IV stuff on it; I've tried a variety of ways of recovering it to no avail.

To complicate things further most of the graphics done for Wing III, IV, and beyond were done on Silicon Graphics machines running Irix (their proprietary Unix OS). You can occasionally find a super-discount SGI machine (an Indy or Indigo II) on eBay but if you investigate that route make sure it's got the OS installed and included.
 

Worf

Vice Admiral
A SyQuest and a backup tape... alas, I have a Iomega Ditto drive that was given to me, but no power supply nor cables/software, nor any info if that would read it.

I do, however, have an SGI Indy machine with IRIX installed on it.
 

cff

Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi
The first one is pretty easy, but specific. Its a special drive that reads it as other said.

The second one sure is a streamer tape. From the picture I am not sure how exotic it is, so it is hard to say which streamers would read it. As Worf said, the Iomega Ditto was one of the most compatible streamer tape readers in existance. I think I still have one in a backup machine of mine, but it wasn't used for a decade and I personally wouldn't trust it with a valuable tape.

The third one I've never seen or heart of.
 

Ghibli

Spaceman
I have managed to dig up some info on the IBM tape.
It is a 9-track tape which was sold in three capacities (21 MB/45 MB/170 MB).
I guess tapes like that were most commonly used on IBM mainframe computers, but there are apparently also SCSI tape decks which can read those:
http://www.vinastar.com/html/9track.htm

There are also some companies (e.g. http://www.dataconversionresource.com/), which offer data conversion from such tapes onto more contemporary media.

Either way, I suspect getting the data off this one will be rather expensive.
 

Lofwyr

Spaceman
First one is a 200MB SyQuest, I do have a functioning drive for those - but would not be of much help as I live in Germany ;)
Would be interesting in what format it was written (could be anything from DOS to Unix).

Seond one is an Exabyte Tape - question is, in what format was it written to? tar or some sort of proprietary format. The capacity ranges from 2,3 to 7GB native. I do have 2 drives, but... ;)

Third one looks like a standard 9 track tape - IBM and other manufacturers of mid range to big iron system use(d) them not so long ago. It was a long time standard for data exchange.
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
The Syquest SZ555 has been acquired. My father has one that I'm going to send on its way to the guys tomorrow.

It sounds like there is some really, really great stuff on those....
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Thanks for the help, guys! As Dundradal says, it sounds like a SyQuest drive is on the way -- so that's one down!

The SyQuests were probably the big one, but the Exabytes are a close second - I doubt we'll find something affordable to read the IBM tapes, and there were only two of those total.

To complicate things further most of the graphics done for Wing III, IV, and beyond were done on Silicon Graphics machines running Irix (their proprietary Unix OS). You can occasionally find a super-discount SGI machine (an Indy or Indigo II) on eBay but if you investigate that route make sure it's got the OS installed and included.

That's very interesting - prices do look very reasonable... but I worry that an SGI Indy is a lot like a beautiful woman -- once I had it I wouldn't know what to do with it. That said, if it meant recovering some Wing Commander IV models I'd be happy to watch for one to send your way!

The Exabyte cartridges in this haul look rather old - as you can see in the picture, that one is from 1992... who would know what type of backups Origin was doing that long ago?
 

Taser8

Captain
I also happen to have dat drive that I think will read that exabyte tape, though I might be wrong - I purchased it in an attempt to get data off my tape backup. I'd be happy to send it on to anyone who could make use of it...
 

Zor Prime

That guy.
Found this for the EXATAPE. Pulled it off an ebay auction.
http://cgi.ebay.com/Nice-Exabyte-Ta...ryZ39977QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem

This looks like the right drive for that tape. (EXB-8500 or EXB-8500c)

There is also a wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data8

Hope it helps! Can't wait to see whats on these!
=========================================

EXB-8500 and EXB-8500c Specifications
These specifications are for the EXB-8500 and EXB-8500c 8mm tape drives.

About the EXB-8500 and EXB-8500c
The EXB-8500 and EXB-8500c 8mm tape drives use helical-scan recording technology and read-and-write head pairs to achieve an uncompressed data transfer rate of 500 KB/sec. The EXB-8500c extends the performance of the EXB-8500 to a 10 GB capacity at a 1 MB/sec transfer rate (compressed). The EXB-8500 reads and writes 8200 and 8500 formats; the EXB-8500c writes 8200, 8200c, 8500, and 8500c data formats. The tape drives are designed to perform onboard error correction and error recovery, along with full read-after-write verification to ensure data integrity.

The tape drives are available in two configurations: as internal tape drives and as external drives that provide the convenience of a standalone peripheral.

Data handling
Capacity:
(8mm EXATAPE, 112m)
EXB-8500: 5 GB
EXB-8500c: 10 GB (compressed)*

Recording method:
Helical-scan

Compression method:
Improved Data Recording Capability compression algorithm

Data transfer rate:
500 KB/sec, uncompressed
1 MB/sec, compressed*

Device reliability (mean time between failures):
MTBF: 40,000 hours

Data integrity:
BER: <1 in 1017 bits
Reed Solomon ECC
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Woah, quite a bit of money for one of those tape drives... and I'm not sure I'd know how to use it even if I did throw $700 at one (well, okay, I'm quite sure I *wouldn't* know how to use it...). I'll also throw this out there -- if there's someone with experience in working with this type of media who would like to come along for our trip then they're invited!

Does anyone know what paying a recovery service to transfer the tapes might cost? Or if there are places that might rent the drives? We're looking at only two of the 9-track tapes (and they're unlabeled, so they could be anything...)

I do think my feeble non-techno-brain is getting used to planning out how the 8mm drives will work - so thank you very much for that!

I also happen to have dat drive that I think will read that exabyte tape, though I might be wrong - I purchased it in an attempt to get data off my tape backup. I'd be happy to send it on to anyone who could make use of it...

That would be great! If you send it to me then I'll take it to EA and then return it to you. I don't think there's a big rush at this point - they're still trying to find us a block of days to do the job. It won't happen until late May or June.

(I know you're in Virginia on occasion, too -- if you happen to be around when we're doing this project then you're more than welcome to come dig through Origin stuff with us...)
 

Worf

Vice Admiral
That's very interesting - prices do look very reasonable... but I worry that an SGI Indy is a lot like a beautiful woman -- once I had it I wouldn't know what to do with it. That said, if it meant recovering some Wing Commander IV models I'd be happy to watch for one to send your way!

Like I said, I do have an SGI Indy collecting dust on my shelf... I don't have a monitor for it, nor much use for it (other than occasionally playing with an old version of Unix).

I suppose I can let it go if someone wants it.
 
Top